Distance between Words and Deeds
1. Soon there will be celebrations of three years of governance. There will be a flood of text messages and WhatsApp messages. Full page advertisements will adorn the front pages of the daily newspaper listing the achievements. But for an objective SWOT analysis, one hopes the script writer will consider the plight of the Armed Forces – especially those in service and at risk of losing limb and life in the next moment, and the widows/widowers whose husbands/wives lost their lives for India, those who have lost limb(s) under the cloud of decreased slab-rate benefits for their disabilities, and the living Veterans whose hope for equity and justice to be compensated as much if not more than their civilian counterparts is fading in the twilight of their lives.
Matching the Words with the Deeds
2. ‘Atrocious!’ repeated the honourable Union Minister in his objections to the comparison of deaths of 40 Indian citizens standing in queues to exchange their hard earned old high denomination (OHD) notes with the death of 19 Indian Army’s soldiers, killed by terrorists’ bullets. May be the speech writer did not do her/his research properly for then she/he would have found some bitter truths.
3. For the first time in the history of 70 years of India’s independence, both serving and retired Central Govt’s civilian employees have enjoyed increased (2.57 times) salaries, pension, and arrears for the past many months more than the serving personnel of the Armed Forces. The Finance Minister’s statement that long queues in front of ATMs and Banks are because the arrears of the Seventh Pay Commission are being encashed is proof, if one was needed!
4. Again, for the first time in 70 years after independence, the Indian Armed Forces have politely requested permission of the Govt not to implement Govt’s orders dated 5th September 2016 in respect of pay and disability benefits. The polite request is to a Govt that extols every soldier’s death and sacrifice but does nothing about honouring its promises to them..
5. Once again, for the first time in 70 years after independence, the Govt has approved “the payment of arrears on an ad-hoc basis, @ 10% of existing Basic Pay plus Dearness Allowance@ 125%” because the Indian Armed Forces have stood firm that the Seventh Pay Commission has adulterated the genuine entitlements of the Indian Armed Forces.
6. MoD’s reply dated 2nd January 2017 to MODEF/R/2016/53600 is proof, if proof was needed as follows: -
Ministry of Defence
The foregoing notes may please be perused. This note is in response to DO letter received from AG, Lt Gen Rakesh Sharma (page 3-5/c). The proposal at para 4 (a), (b) and (c) on pre-page is put up for RM’s orders.
2. In this context, it may be recalled that the Services had put off the implementation of the resolution dated 5th September 2016 of the Ministry of Defence relating to the implementation of the recommendations of the 7th CPC as applicable to Defence Services. Subsequently, a direction was issued asking all the three Services to implement the orders forthwith without waiting for their grievances to be redressed. Now, the Army has asked for payment of interim award at the rates mentioned in para 1 at 1/N saying that the issue of the relevant orders fixing pay of the officers and Service personnel will take time. While this is acceptable because of the forthcoming festive season, the flip side is that the Services may defer the actual implementation of the 7th CPC recommendations after releasing the interim relief on the plea that the grievances are awaiting redressal. The letter of AG mentions this at para 4 (F/X). This is not acceptable in view of RM’s clear directions. Fixation of the pay has to be done forthwith and it should not be held up till the Government addressed the grievances as this is likely to take quite some time. In view of these, we may communicate the proposal at para 4 (a), (b) & (c) (emphasis supplied).
3. For approval please.
(G Mohan Kumar)
Def Sec DO issued Sd/--------- 1/10
Wasn’t this information provided to the Honourable Minister so that Armed Forces did not find it incredulous when he proclaimed the virtues of the Armed Forces?
7. Orders for payment of salaries of the 7th CPC scale for serving Indian Armed Forces personnel were issued on 3rd May 2017. But the MoD replied on 12th April 2017 to MODEF/R/2017/50746 dated 20th March 2017 for copy of file notings leading to Resolutions 1 (E) and 2 (E) for which Rs 70/- had been paid for in these words, “…..because the information can be used to create dissatisfaction/unrest in Defence Forces, which will prejudicially affect the security of the country. The information, can, therefore, not be furnished as provided under Section 8 1 (a) of the RTI Act, 2005. However, the matter regarding returning the amount of Rs 70/- deposited earlier as the cost of photocopy charges, is separately being taken up with Cash section of MoD” (emphasis supplied).
8. Why the dissonance between what the Govt says about Indian Armed Forces and what the Govt does for them? Here are just 5 instances of many.
(a) Instance No. 1: - Govt’s orders of 2008 on pay for Indian Armed Forces personnel state that Military Service Pay (MSP) is to be added to Pay in the Pay Band (or Basic Pay) and Grade Pay including for calculating pension for all purposes except for calculating annual increments and determining status. The Seventh Pay Commission decided not to include MSP even for calculating the entry (Basic) pay from Sepoys to Brigadiers.
The Govt, despite praises for the sacrifices of the Indian Armed Forces every time a soldier dies, did not question non-inclusion of MSP for calculating the new Entry (Basic) Pay. Therefore, without MSP being added to calculate the new Entry (Basic) Pay, Govt’s orders of 5th Sep 2016 will result in a loss of approximately Rs 9000/- per month for Sepoys (and equivalents), which increases to a loss of Rs 21000/- per month for Brig (and equivalents).
(b) Instance No. 2: - Seventh Pay Commission recommended, and the ECoS concurred with lower slab rates of disability benefits for Indian Armed Forces. The Govt has issued orders without questioning the ECoS. The ECoS, living in the comfortable, air conditioned environs of North and South Blocks, appear unaware of disabilities due to adverse elements - the biting cold of Siachen, injuries due to the misfiring/jamming INSAS rifles, explosions of bombs and ammunition because of faulty design coupled with delays by the Govt in taking remedial action, partial deafness due to the noise levels in the cockpits of An-32 aircraft and helicopters et al. Thankfully, the Govt has had second thoughts in May 2017 and changed disability benefits for Armed Forces to the prevailing percentage basis.
(c) Instance No. 3: - Seventh Pay Commission has recommended that Indian Armed Forces officers be paid Rs 31500 per month and JCOs/ORs Rs 21000 as Hazard Allowance of the highest degree for serving in Siachen. On the other hand, the Pay Commission recommended that All India Services officers (which comprise IAS, IFS, IFoS, and IPS officers) be paid an additional 30% of their Basic Pay as an additional incentive to serve in Northeast states, Ladakh! Aren’t they All India Services? Aren’t North-eastern States and Ladakh in India?
(d) Instance No. 4: - a One Man Judicial Committee (OMJC) was formed to adjudicate on OROP. MoD asked Veterans to make representations through the MoD, the administrative Ministry for the OMJC. Natural justice is denied because MoD knows the Veterans representation but Veterans know nothing of the MoD’s rationale on the same issues. The results of the OMJC may not surprise 18 lakh ESM and widows, if and when it is announced.
(e) Instance No. 5: - Non-Functional (Financial) Upgradation (NFU) was paid to almost all Group A Central Services on the basis that should an IAS officer who is 2 years junior be deputed to the Centre have a higher Grade Pay and scale, all (repeat) all Group A officers who are two years senior to the IAS officer will be granted NFU. When the Armed Force tribunal awarded NFU to the Armed Forces, the Govt has gone in appeal about the sweeping powers assumed by the AFT. Who questioned the sweeping powers assumed by the DoPT to award NFU to every one else?
9. The list of woes of Indian Armed Forces personnel are mis-treated is longer, but forthcoming occasion of the Govt’s gaiety prevents listing all of them.
10. A wise old man said, “Every society is judged by how it treats its least fortunate amongst them.” Sadly, the Indian Armed Forces appear to be the least fortunate!
11. Please join me in praying for Indian Armed Forces that they may continue to defend our country, never mind the mendacity of the bureaucrats, the lip service of the Govts of the day, and the bullets of the terrorists.
[Don’t worry about one’s religious belief or if one is an atheist or agnostic. Just pray and hope for the best for this phase too shall pass.]
Satyam Ev Jayate